"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about getting out of your head enough to engage each moment wholeheartedly. When we are Present in an open, kind, clear, and helpful way, the vast, mysterious, magical reality of life itself becomes self-evident .

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Step by Step

Walking with ease and with peace of mind on the earth 
is a wonderful miracle.  Some people say that only walking on burning coals or walking on spikes or on water are miracles, but I find that simply walking on the earth is a miracle.
--Thich Nhat Hahn

"Every path, every street in the world is your walking meditation path." 

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Several times in the past couple of years of MMM, I've witnessed someone experiencing formal walking meditation for the first time.  

After sharing a few words about the various forms of meditation (it's not Just Sitting after all), I introduced the South Asian "slow motion" walking meditation as I had learned it when I was in residence at Insight Meditation Society years ago.  Then we took a stroll across the glistening wooden floors of the studio at Community Yoga from one wall to the other, turned, and returned.

It only took a few minutes.

In a couple of instances, I had the privilege of seeing a childlike sense of wonder emerge in a person who had just experienced, at least for a moment or two, "Beginner's Mind."  

Meeting their eyes, it was obvious.  During the course of this relatively brief walk, they had been Present to Life in a fuller and more complete way than usual. 

I love it when that happens. 

Walking and Waking Up

The spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff claimed that most humans are "sleepwalking" through their lives.  I think he nailed it.  Sleepwalking is a perfect metaphor for the semi-conscious manner in which most of us have learned to move through our lives.  

In a materialistic society that stresses speed, production, and the accumulation of goods and status, we have been conditioned to scurry and stagger ahead without being fully aware of our bodies in the present moment.  Distracted, lost in our thoughts much of the time, the miraculous sea of sensations and energies that constitute Life each moment remain beneath the level of consciousness.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way.  We each have the ability to awaken. It can happen with the very next step.
Although the slow motion technique that we share in Monday Morning Mindfulness is a useful and powerful technique, there are many other forms of walking meditation. 

Thich Nhat Hahn's Walking Meditation is a classic text on this Practice.  There is a transcription of A Guide to Walking Mediation on line as well as a number of YouTube videos available of his instructions.  Just googling "walking meditation" will provide a myriad of other instructions from Buddhist teachers.

For those who identify with the Christian tradition, former Trappist Monk, James Finley, Ph.D. devotes a chapter to walking meditation in his book Christian Meditation. There is also an interesting Christian approach shared by Eric Munro on the web at Christian Walking Meditation.  

With Every Step

You don't have to go off to a retreat center to practice walking meditation.  Each time we walk from here to "there" (which, of course, is always just another here), we have the opportunity to Practice. 

Whether we are surrounded by the majesty of nature or walking to our next meeting in the city, with each step we have the opportunity to notice the sensations of our legs moving, to feel our feet as they meet the ground.  With each step, we have the opportunity to come to our senses, to actually feel our breath, to expand our awareness to include the sounds we are hearing, to be in touch with the incredible rainbow of colors that our eyes are seeing in any one moment.  

With each and every step, we have the opportunity to be Present to the Ongoing Miracle of Life Itself!

How cool is that? 


Stephanie said...

I actually had a surprise experience with walking meditation today! Getting (intentionally?) lost on the way home from the store, I made my way to a train station several stops north of my apartment. The train wouldn't arrive for twenty minutes, and after dawdling around for five, I started doing slow motion walking meditation from one end of the platform to the other (I was the only one there). I thought I'd have to traverse the platform three times in order to "get through" the fifteen minute wait....but I only got halfway across the platform before I heard the train chugging in; I couldn't believe how time flew. It's a wonderful practice.

Lance Smith said...

Thanks so much for chiming in with your experience, Stephanie. Interestingly, three folks at MMM's intro session on Monday, not knowing about the weekly blog yet, spoke glowingly about their first walking meditation experience.

Seems like the stars have recently aligned in the House of Walks? LOL
One Love